Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Introduction to Scotus

Here is a handy introduction to Scotus for the philosophical layperson. Written by Jack Allen.

Here are his thoughts on why Scotus is not read much today.

Given all these major doctrines, one might wonder why Scotus doesn’t get much air time these days. To my mind there are three reasons. Firstly, since the Enlightenment, Medieval philosophy has been seen as backward, superstitious, or just a bit weird. This attitude is encapsulated by David Hume’s famous Enlightenment claim that “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748). Scholasticism, then, has been given a fairly hard time, often by influential philosophers who have not engaged with it in any deep manner.
Secondly, there is St Thomas Aquinas. Since Pope Leo XIII wrote Aeterni Patris in 1879, great philosophical importance has been given to Aquinas in Catholic and Anglo-Catholic thinking. The 1917 Code of Canon Law claimed that Aquinas’ methods should be used in teaching philosophy and theology. The popularity of Aquinas (which is certainly not entirely unjustified), combined with the negative view of Scotus put about by the Radical Orthodoxy movement, has led to a marginalisation of Scotus’ work.
Thirdly, Scotus’ writings are famous for being difficult to read. It is easy to disparage Scotus for the same reason it is easy to disparage any postmodernist: their writing is dense and subtle, and it can be difficult to see what they are saying, if anything. And not only is Scotus’ Latin tight and elliptical – earning him the title of ‘the Subtle Doctor’ – but little of his work is available in English, although more is becoming available year on year.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Analogia Entis as Nigromantical Principle

For various reasons I was poking about in contemporary theological writing on analogy of being and Duns Scotus. The usual wasteland of wild claims, textual misinterpretation, and historical inaccuracy abounds now as ever (the belief that Scotus taught in Cambridge is impervious to all argument), but I did come across an interesting discussion of analogy in John Betz's article (which does not mention Scotus) "The Analogia entis as a Standard of Catholic Engagement..." in Modern Theology 2018. The following paragraph caught my eye:

Nevertheless, Barth was right that Przywara did not invent the analogia entis and that it has long been part of the Catholic tradition. Not only is it found in Augustine, specifically in Book XV of De Trinitate, which appears to have been the basis for the decision of the IV Lateran Council. It is also the implicit (but obvious) teaching of Aquinas, whom Przywara calls the teacher of the analogia entis, especially on account of Thomas’s teaching on secondary causes (since this teaching underscores, more so than NeoPlatonic models of exemplarism, including Augustine’s, the difference between God and creation). It is also, for that matter, the implicit teaching of Gregory of Nyssa, as is evident from Gregory’s reading of Exodus 3:14 and his corresponding understanding of the relation between Being and non-being. But it remained for centuries more of an implicit than an explicit teaching and thus stood in need of theological explication (precisely in keeping with Newman’s understanding of the development of doctrine, but here in terms of the Church’s understanding of creation). In fact, it does not appear as a terminus technicus until Cajetan and John of St. Thomas, and only thereafter, by way of Su├írez’s Disputationes Metaphysicae, made its way into the Jesuit manuals in which Przywara first encountered it

Two thoughts arise from considering this passage:

First.  As I and probably many other specialists writing on Scotus have pointed out, there are multiple senses of the "analogy being". There is a 'thick' sense, much like what is described in the passage quoted here, which involves dissimilarity-similarity, participation, causality, basically a whole cluster of metphysical notions. There is also a 'thin' sense, which is about the relations between terms and concepts. The thick sense includes the thin sense of analogy. Modern critics of Scotus generally don't distinguish these senses, and, without distinguishing where Henry's theory of analogy falls that Scotus rejects (and to be fair to modern theologians, many now seem to be aware that Scotus attacked Henry's theory of analogy and not Thomas'), assume Scotus rejects the analogia entis, simpliciter et totaliter, that is, that he throws out the thick sense of analogy.

Second. The claim here, backed by an article from 1970 (though, interestingly enough, the article is not by an author who is a medievalist, but apparently by another Przywara scholar) is that the usage of Analogia entis as a technical term is first found in Cajetan. Interestingly enough, the 17th c. Scotist theologian and philosopher Mastri made a similar claim, asserting that "the ancient scholastics wrote little about analogy" and that the debate over analogy began with Cajetan's book on the topic. One sees here the so-called tyranny of print: there was much discussion of analogy by authors such as Petrus Thomae who were never printed in the early days of the press, and so works such as the Quaestiones de ente (which dwarfs Cajetan's De nominum analogia) were lost to later ages. But John Betz and Mastri are both wrong. The usage of 'analogia entis' in both the thick and thin senses is found in the aforementioned Quaestiones de ente of Petrus Thomae, first printed in its entirety last year but written at Barcelona in 1325. This work also contains the first known mention of the Scotist school (Schola scotica). So the first professedly Scotist author is also the coiner of the Analogia entis? Given the widespread belief that Scotus himself and thus all his "progeny" rejected analogy, this is quite the historical irony. Moreover, given that Peter Thomae died in prison under charges of necromancy, perhaps the Analogy of Being is tainted, some attempted spell cast by Peter Thomae from across the ages; in the end perhaps it is, to paraphrase the (Latin) trial documents, a Nigromantical Principle.

For statements on analogy in PT, see Petrus Thomae, Quaestiones de ente q. 10 (thick analogy; see here). See also the same question for thin analogy, ed. me, p. 272: "Ad secundum et tertium et alias similes auctoritates dico quod explicant analogiam entis respectu substantiae et aliorum, sed haec analogia non repugnat verae univocationi."  The edition records no variants here, but one wonders whether "aliorum" shouldn't be "accidentium".

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Have you Tried Scotus?

A great discussion of Scotus in a mainline catholic journal, written by that indefatigable translator of the Ordinatio, Peter Simpson.

A taste:

Indeed if, as seems true, there was something deficient about pre–Vatican II theological training, even in Rome, the deficiency will not be made up by a return to an exclusivist Thomism, much less to the old Thomistic manuals. A return to Thomas read and studied in the original texts would doubtless help. But such a return would not have helped the young Kenny with his question. For the theologian who had a good answer, Duns Scotus, is barely studied, if studied at all. His very name raises hackles or eyebrows or both. The man is accused by some of causing the theological decline of the West. It is said that he precipitated the destruction of a magnificent and glorious edifice with his falsely subtle distinctions, his flattening metaphysics of univocity, his skeptical undermining of rational proofs for the faith, his tortuous Latin.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Franciscus de Mayronis and Petrus Thomae: The Principle of non-contradiction is univocally common to God and creatures

The claim that the principle of non contradiction (PNC) is univocally common to God and creatures is a common one in early Scotism. I give below the summary conclusions from the prologue of Mayronis' Conflatus redaction of his commentary on the Sentences. There is a link to Latin text on the sideboard of the blog.

Franciscus de Mayronis, Conflatus, prol. q. 1 a. 2.

Conclusio 1: "First is that that principle or its truth is found formally in creatures" [a proof follows; here I give only a little text in what follows]
Conclusio 2: "The second conclusion is that the truth of the principle is formally found and also holds in God, because where the conclusion, there the principle, just as before. In God is found the truth of that, namely that God is eternal or non eternal, which are conclusions of the first principle."
Conclusio 3: "The third conclusion is that it is found under the same ratio in God and in creatures" [several arguments follow]
Conclusion 4: "The fourth conclusion follows from the third, from which under the same formal ratio it is found in God and creatures it follows that one and the same is found in God and creatures."

perhaps if I have time, I will translate this whole section.


Here is the text from Petrus Thomae's Reportatio, d. 1 q. 1:

Tertiadecima ratio formatur ex tertiadecima maxima sic: omnis principii veritas se extendit ad univoca sui subiecti et nullo modo ad aequivoca; sed veritas huius principii ‘de quolibet affirmatio vel negatio’ vera se extendit ad ens creatum et increatum, finitum et infinitum etc. ergo creatum et increatum finitum et infinitum sunt univoca sui subiecti; sed subiectum eius est ens; ergo ens est univocum ad ens creatum et increatum, finitum et infinitum; ergo.

The thirteenth argument is formed from the thirteenth maxim thus: the truth of every principle extends itself to the univocals of its subject and in no way to equivocals; but the truth of this proposition 'affirmation or negation of whatever' truly extends itself to created and uncreated being, finite and infinite, etc.; therefore created and uncreated, finite and infinite are univocals of its subject; but the subject of it is being; therefore being is univocal to created being and uncreated being, finite and infinite; therefore,

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

On the Horizon

Update: there is now a Website for the Archiv!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tales of Interest

Various items of interest are going on about the internet or in real life.

1. There is a conference in Bonn, Germany, from April 4-5 on Scotus' Interlocutors at Paris.  Information is here.

2. On the internet, there have been some fascinating discussions of analogy and  univocity, that may be of interest to some.

A. John Sylvest.
B. Al Kimel.

Sadly I don't have time to comment at the moment, but they are well worth reading.

I am currently working on a nice question on univocity by Mayronis that could combat much of the extreme apophaticism prevalent in theology today, if I could ever finish editing it, perhaps adding a translation and commentary...

3. There is also an upcoming conference in march on analogy in Aristotle. See here for information.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Franciscus de Mayronis on Univocity

Here is the conclusion to a question on univocity of being probably by Francis of Meyronnes that I transcribed today.

Ideo dico quod ens dicitur secundum eandem rationem formalem de Deo et creatura, licet nullo modo secundum eandem realitatem, quia licet Deus sit in perfectione excellentissimus ut eius entitas omnia transcendit, ita est benignissimus ut sua dona quibuscumque communicet, et ideo sicut illi qui negant univocationem ipsam laudant quoad eius sublimitatem, ita isti quoad eius liberalissimam largitatem, nec tamen isti minus extollunt divinam excellentiam quia ipsam ponunt perfectum, non solum quoad excellentiam et sufficientiam sed etiam quoad redundantiam, unde Paulus eius divitias extollens Ro. 10 dicit quod Deus est dives in omnes ad quas divitias nos ipse perducat. Amen.

Therefore I say that being is said according to the same formal notion of God and creatures, although in no way according to the same reality, because, although God is most excellent in perfection so that his entity transcends all things, so also he is most kind so that he communicates his gifts to everyone, and therefore, just as those who deny univocity praise him according to his sublimity, so those [who affirm univocity praise him] according to his most liberal abundance, nor nevertheless do they [who affirm univocity] less extol the divine excellence because they posit it as perfect, not only as far as excellence and sufficiency but also as far as his overflowingness, whence Paul extolling his riches  says in Romans 10 that God is rich in all to which riches he will lead us. Amen.